Suga to sign deal on maiden visit to Southeast Asia as prime minister
TOKYO — Japan plans to sign an agreement allowing it to export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam, part of its push to bolster the defense capabilities of Indo-Pacific nations to counter Chinese maritime advances.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Tuesday that he will make his first foreign trip in his new job next week, visiting Vietnam and Indonesia. He is expected to sign the Vietnam deal as part of this.
Security cooperation is expected to emerge as a key topic in Suga’s meetings with the countries’ leaders. Vietnam in particular faces competing claims with China in the South China Sea, where Beijing continues to build up islands and its military presence. A China Coast Guard vessel also collided with a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the waters this April.
The South China Sea, a key sea lane that connects Asia and the Middle East, has a direct impact on Japan’s national security. Japan aims to strengthen its cooperation in Vietnam to encourage restraint by the Chinese side in the waters.
Japan lifted its ban on weapons exports in 2014 under the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, which state that it may not transfer arms to a party to a conflict, that any transfers must contribute to Japan’s security, and that Japan must give advance consent before the recipient transfers the arms to a third party.